The preclinical research company Sprint Bioscience is constantly hunting for new target proteins that may be relevant in the development of better cancer treatments. Earlier this year, the company entered into a collaboration with Associate Professor Julian Walfridsson with the aim of doing just that. After only a few months, new target proteins have now been identified that may be relevant for the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia. BioStock reached out to CEO Erik Kinnman to find out more.
Sprint Bioscience focuses on the development of early-stage drug candidates, with a targeted focus on the cancer area. The strategy consists of reaching out-licensing deals with major international pharmaceutical companies while the programmes are still in preclinical stages of development. This has already been achieved with three programmes, and in addition, the company operates the three internal programmes VADA, DISA, and NIMA. In order to further develop and out-license these projects, Sprint is currently carrying out a rights issue.
Collaboration yields results
In addition to the existing programmes, the company is working to develop new target proteins that can form the basis for new development projects. Earlier this year, the collaboration with Associate Professor Julian Walfridsson and his company NeoTargets was deepened with the aim of achieving just that, first and foremost within the indication acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Within the collaboration, a technology platform has been developed, where bioinformatics, CRISPR screening and safety evaluation are combined to quickly and efficiently identify new target proteins with a good safety profile. Through the agreement, Sprint Bioscience gains pre-emption rights to the target proteins identified through the platform and can thus develop inhibitors for use as a treatment of AML.
This collaboration has already begun to bear fruit as it has succeeded in identifying several target proteins for the indication. Sprint thus has the opportunity to develop these further in new drug programmes through the company’s fragment-based drug platform (FBDD). With this progress, the two parties have received a clear confirmation of the working model used in the collaboration, which may thus be expanded for the identification of target proteins for further cancer indications. According to the company, the fact that efficacy and safety parameters have been evaluated early on strengthens the value of the projects, which can be seen as an advantage in potential out-licensing.
Erik, in collaboration with Julian Walfridsson, the initial focus is on AML. Why did you choose this particular indication?
– There is a great medical need for more and better treatments for this type of difficult-to-treat cancer, and Associate Professor Walfridsson has extensive experience of and access to samples from patients with AML. There are several subgroups of AML, which means that there are great opportunities to develop precision medicine treatments for these different variants.
Now that you have succeeded in identifying target proteins relevant to the indication, what is the next step?
-These first target proteins that we have now identified are candidates for new interesting drug programmes. As a first step, we will investigate the possibilities for us to develop high-quality molecules that inhibit the target proteins.
The working model used in the collaboration can be expanded to use in further indications. Are there any particular areas you have in mind?
– In principle, the methodology can be used for all types of cancer where there is a significant medical need and thus commercial potential. Which form of cancer we will move towards next will be determined by the feedback we receive from potential partners about the indications they prioritise when looking for new programmes to in-license.